by Jonathan Kellerman
4 stars - highly recommend
I've been a fan on Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware novels since he first started pumping them out back in 1985. This is the 27th book in the series and while there have been some along the way that would have merited just three stars, this one is certainly of the four star variety.
Alex Delaware is a forensic psychologist who works with the Los Angeles police department as a consultant. He's called in whenever there are particularly grisly and vexing crimes, most likely committed by persons who have slipped their cogs.
I'll reiterate... grisly. The murders in these books are frightening. Almost icky and scary enough to cross the author off my list. But he keeps me coming back because his writing is just so darn good.
Alex's sidekick is Milo Sturgis, homicide detective. The reader learns just as much about Milo as about Alex. Kellerman does a great job filling us in on the private lives and intricacies of his characters. That's a must for a series to survive. Great descriptions of minor players as well, so I never have the feeling of a character appearing as a convenient prop. They are all three dimensional beings.
In one of the books, Alex picks up a girlfriend, Robin. I wish he would dump her. I don't like her at all, but that's not terribly important.
He also acquires a French Bulldog somewhere along the way (I forget how). She's awesome.
The writing makes the novel. Kellerman has a knack for pacing. Sure, the earlier parts of the books allow for nice pauses to go do whatever, but by mid book he has usually wound things up to the point where I will miss sleep to keep going. The books are written in the voice of Alex which means that we only know what he knows. Super. So we get to puzzle things out along with Alex. There are plenty of plot twists, but nothing predictable or usual about them. Not so convoluted as to frustrate and when the pieces fall into place it is logical and satisfying.
Every book deals with some sort of mental illness or another. Fascinating and scary stuff.
Here's the dust cover teaser from Victims:
"Not since Jack the Ripper terrorized the London slums has there been such a gruesome crime scene. By all accounts, acid-tongued Vita Berlin hadn't a friend in the world, but whom did she cross so badly as to end up arranged in such a grotesque tableau?"
More murders occur, Alex and Milo go to work, and we are away.
Lots of information about the nature of mental illness throughout all the novels, but never in a preachy way. More creepy than anything else, because what protection does the average person have against the mind that has lost its grip on reality?
If you choose to read this, I will add a semi-spoiler footnote.... I think the author likes dogs. 'Nuff said.